Category: Essential Stories

Essential Stories: Maurice Cooper

Voices in Humanism Essential Stories

“Good Morning, My Name is Maurice”

Maurice Cooper, Environmental Services, EVS, The Brain and Spine Hospital, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

      Maurice Cooper came into his third year working in hospital environmental services in March 2020 with the same trepidation as most. COVID patients began arriving, and with discoveries yet to be made about this new virus, fears ran high.

     “I was worried every single day in the beginning,” Maurice said. “I still get worried about catching COVID and I have been exposed twice and tested twice but I am fine. We learned how to handle cleaning and how to take precautions and that has helped.”

     We see news stories of pots and pans being banged to honor doctors and nurses for their selfless work and pizzas delivered to Emergency Rooms to reward the staff. Yet, on the very front lines of infection fighting are our unsung heroes, the housekeeping battalions fighting the sanitizing wars. Without them, the enemy would run rampant defeating all other efforts.

     “We go through a three-step cleaning process,” Maurice explained. It consists of first the general clean up, then the thorough clean, and then with the patient still in residence, finding out what the patient also needs to have completed. With a patient diagnosed with COVID and released, there is a thorough bleaching of everything. According to Maurice, this cleaning is welcomed for what it does for the next patient but, “it is also what helps keep us out of the hospital beds too,” he reasoned.

     For the COVID patients, Maurice and his co-workers are covered with protective wear head to foot and sometimes he finds it hard to breathe with so much outer wear. None of this prevents Maurice from following protocol and also being a kind human being to even the sickest non-communicative patients.

     “Last week I witnessed a death. It was heartbreaking. The person could barely talk. It was a thumbs up or an eye blink,” he related. I would offer my message on the board and write, Good Morning, My Name is Maurice, I am here to clean your room.” Even though the patient lost the battle against COVID, Maurice’s compassion, warm smiling eyes, and cleaning skills showed the patient he and others were there to help.

     Consider “sterile” conditions in 1900 hospitals and see how far we have come. Surgeons wore street clothes and shoes with a type of butcher’s apron over top.  Open air operating rooms had come-as-you are spectators. Until the 1980’s nurses sported a small white starched cap perched atop their heads. Ambulances were horse drawn carriages. Sanitation improved but 2020’s COVID whirled all into another galaxy of clean.

     Maurice recently won “Employee of the Month” on his floor, a recognition he is especially proud of. “I understand usually nurses win the award and the nurse manager said I was the first housekeeper to win it. It’s hanging on the door where we clock in.” Maurice has much respect for the nurses whom he says so often represent the family members who cannot visit the COVID patients and do an incredible amount of work under extreme circumstances.

     Director of Environmental Services at Ross Heart Hospital, Meghan Taucher, said of Maurice, he is someone you can rely on. “He goes out of his way to help anyone and everyone. He has the biggest heart and is one of the kindest people I have ever met. Maurice cares so much about his job. He knows how important his role is in keeping the patients and staff members safe. He works hard day in and day out but always does so with a smile on his face. You can tell that he loves what he does and loves making a difference in people’s lives. Maurice is AWESOME!”

     Maurice’s respect for others extends to his managers and the hospital system itself. He said with a crack of emotion in his voice, “I am so touched by what Meghan said about me. She goes out of her way to be understanding. You know, that patient in the bed could be any one of us in the hospital and that’s why I do my work the way I do. I try and set a good example with my job and pass it on to others.”

     Manager Brice Hulsether also receives high praise from Maurice for making sure they have everything they need to sanitize and maintain cleanliness; priority one in a hospital. As far as working for the hospital, Buckeye fan Maurice Cooper feels about his work environment as he does about next year’s OSU football team. He said, “I have faith in them.” He also said, “The entire hospital, everybody inspires me in their own way.”

    Maurice’s work ethic is heaven sent.  “Just make the best out of everyday and bring all the smiles. Do what you’re supposed to do and do not worry about what you cannot do.”  Those are the words of Maurice’s mother who instructed him in how to be a good person. His mother passed away at the age of 48. Maurice, now 35, said, “Her words stick with me every day.” His mother cautioned, “You can’t do everything. Do what you can.”

     In the height of the pandemic when everyone needed to acknowledge what they could do and what they could not do, that dark cloud of helpless stress fell heavily throughout the hospital among dedicated individuals who are trained to nurture, heal, and save. COVID was testing their resolve. Still, everyone soldiered on, masked, with hands cracking from so many washings. They set aside sadness and fear in order to treat and save patients.

     Not everyone could be saved, but everyone can follow Maurice’s mother’s advice and do what they can and “bring the smiles” while they work.

     Sometimes a glorious saving grace could be a face of sincere warmth, even masked, and words of care written on the board: “Good Morning, My name is Maurice. I am here to clean your room.”

     With Maurice and all of the housekeepers, the old adage is true, cleanliness is next to godliness.

Patricia Wynn Brown
Writer and Performer
Medicine and the Arts Board
Author: ESSENTIAL STORIES: Medicine During Covid-19 and the Lives of the Practitioners at The OSU Wexner Center

Essential Stories: Jeff Horowitz

Voices in Humanism 

“Godzilla vs. Science”

Dr. Jeff Horowitz, Director of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

Dr. Jeff Horowitz, one of the firsts to receive the vaccine at OSU

“Our breathing ties us to each other. The atmosphere is a communal space, and lungs are an extension of it,” writes pulmonologist Michael J. Stephen in his book, “Breath Taking: The Power, Fragility, and Future of Our Extraordinary Lungs

The COVID pandemic has laid claim to its stomping ground, and like monster Godzilla, it crashed and thrashed through the world’s health. It seeks its vengeance in many ways, including merciless attacks on our lungs. The folklore nymph deity, Ondine, who has an actual breathing anomaly named for her, has definitely cast another cruel curse. Medical practitioners became part of the soldiers to battle the novel assault with the ICU as the final saving zone.

Dr. Jeffrey Horowitz M.D., a physician-scientist, started his position at Ohio State in January 2020. By March the first of the COVID patients began showing up. He has been a pulmonologist for 20 years but with the COVID treatment, “It was like learning to fly while you are landing the plane. Everything was changing so quickly,” he said, “it was an incredibly hectic time with medical decision-making, working out hypotheses, discerning opinion cases, implementing research protocols, all in a deliberate and thoughtful manner.”

Dr. Horowitz spent two hours on Sunday evenings communicating with colleagues going over the newest care guidelines and treatments which changed by the day. He said, “My approach is to remain calm, process the information and not overreact. Do things that we know work. Then apply the new approaches.”

Sporting a Chicago Cubs t-shirt, (he is from the western suburbs of Chicago), Dr. Horowitz happened to be one of the first to receive the COVID vaccine at OSU. By chance, he was in media photographs, the CNN B-role videos, and one of Governor DeWine’s videos on that historic day.

He was happy to be one of the first to receive the shot not so much for his own well-being, nor for the attention of the press, but to, as he put it, “be up front, be visible, ‘let me take the risk,’ lead from the front. That’s what leaders do though I have trusted the vaccine from the very start and I will feel good when 300 million vaccines have been given.”

He is an Avengers and Star Wars fan but when this writer brought up the heroism of Capt. America and those who treat COVID patients, Dr. Horowitz was quick to put any label of hero aside for himself, notwithstanding, the long hours, writing death certificates for 6 patients in 7 days, being separated from his family for 10 weeks in the beginning of the pandemic, and being new to the position when a pandemic struck.

“I am more like the reluctant hero. There are days when I say to myself, ‘what the hell am I doing here?’ We discover we are the right person to be doing it. There is the firefighter going into the burning building, or the police officer walking into the chaos. They are special. I am not unique, nothing special.”

Neil Armstrong was a “reluctant” real life hero. Hans Solo in “Star Wars” and Frodo Baggins in “The Lord of the Rings” are fictional reluctant heroes. We see reluctant heroes on the news speaking the same refrain as they save a child who fell through the ice or lift a car off the lifeless body. “I’m not a hero. I just did what needed to be done.”

Those called to action bear the burden of their missions selflessly. In the final comic book panel of the cling-master, Spider-Man, he says, “With great power there must also come great responsibility.”

In addition to those special people he mentioned, Dr. Horowitz offers this assessment. He holds considerable admiration for the heroics of the nurses. “They are the true heroes. They are in the rooms all the time.”

Despite many 16-hour-days, he checks his pace as one hour at a time, one day at a time. He is grateful OSU was never completely overrun like the hospitals on the east and west coasts. He does observe, however, the severity of the illness increasing and also recognizes the emotional trauma patients face post ICU interventions and a need for counseling for them.

One patient, he recalled, was “a big strong guy who had been intubated and was very scared. He panicked as we set up to intubate him. Then he went to the general med floor post intubation and he was still having shortness of breath and was so frustrated.”

A woman who had been intubated and required ECMO (extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation, in which blood is pumped through a circuit that provides oxygen, essentially serving to bypass the lungs) for several weeks. She needed a tracheostomy tube and a feeding tube, and over the course of several months, improved enough to be liberated from ventilator assistance. He met her in the outpatient clinic. She was still on oxygen and short of breath and involved in minimal activities. He said, “She will need a ton more rehabilitation and probably has scarring of the lungs. But, she just seems happy to be alive and was positive about things.”

Resilience in a pandemic is a necessary superpower for patients and medical staff alike. In Viktor Frankl’s book, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” he explains we have a freedom to choose how we will react in any situation. Frankl, a concentration camp survivor, wrote, “we cannot control what happens but we can control how we feel and what we do about what happens.”

Exercise when possible helps Dr. Horowitz, also watching movies with his 15-year-old daughter, while the other daughter is away at college. He has weekly video calls with his friends with whom he trained which helps. “This call is one of the good things we started during the pandemic,” he said.

A colleague friend of Dr. Horowitz’, from his University of Michigan days, posted a picture of a stairwell. Just a stairwell, and it was liked 60,000 times and shared 8,762 times. After two decades in the pulmonary field, Dr. Horowitz says, “We all know that stairwell. We have all had to take a moment in the stairwell.”

And then it is back to work with renewed courage and leadership. It helps to have intuitive Spider-Man “spider-sense” and in a pinch, when just hanging on is required, web shooting devices.

In his division director position, with 67 faculty looking to him for guidance, he says, “I need to keep my finger on the pulse of their morale because a big part of my job is taking care of my people. There is no respite. We’re the ones who have to do this. We were on the edge of a cliff for quite a while.”


Patricia Wynn Brown
Writer and Performer
Medicine and the Arts Board
Author: ESSENTIAL STORIES: Medicine During COVID-19 and the Lives of Practitioners at The OSU Wexner Center



Why I Write the “Essential Stories”

by Patricia Wynn Brown

I met a good friend on the street today whose husband endures severe chronic pain. They are both suffering. She needed to share her story.  The telling began to relax her face, her posture. She pulled the rubber band off her pony tail and released her curly blond hair to fall over her shoulders. She exhaled deeply. We stood in a sacred place of trust.

Then I told her a story about my dressing for my second covid shot outing with more care for hair, makeup, and outfit than I had for my wedding day.  My telling became a humorous saga of outrageous exaggerations with my rare grand escape from a year of confinement. We laughed as the tiny white snowdrop flowers and emerging forsythia seemed to come alive around us and fresh spring air filled our lungs. My friend was now smiling ear to ear and her face had brightened. She lassoed her pony tail, we bid goodbyes, and she stepped sprightly down the sidewalk.

In Anne Lamott’s new book, DUSK, NIGHT, DAWN, she writes, “Stories can be our most reliable medicine.” It is this that always guides my professional writing and humor memoir performances.

As a member of the Ohio State Medicine and Arts board, as I heard the stories in our zoom meetings about what the hospital staff faced in their fight for lives during the pandemic, I wanted to serve. I decided my best skills for the job were writing the stories of the heroes themselves. This ESSENTIAL STORIES series originated with the help of Dr. Linda Stone, her husband Larry Stone, and Kristin Rodgers of the Medical Heritage Center at OSU.

It is important for these stories to be recorded for history at the Center and shared, but another tremendous benefit has occurred. When the interviewees read their finished draft, the results for them are an elevated spirit, a new sense of purpose in their profession, an affirmation of their endurance, and a blessing for the miracles they perform.

Patricia Wynn Brown is the writer of ESSENTIAL STORIES: Medicine during Covid-19 and the Practitioners at the OSU Medical Center. These stories are featured on this blog. 

Essential Stories: Bonnie Bowen

Voices in Humanism


Bonnie Bowen, artist, ‘spreading joy with her whimsical watercolors’ during the pandemic. OSU class of 1951

“I never dreamed it would take off like it did. All I do is draw the pictures.”

— Bonnie Bowen, artist

Bonnie Bowen, center, surrounded by fans wearing the O-H-I-O T-shirt of her design.

Bonnie Bowen’s art has indeed taken off with sometimes 14,000 to 25,000 views a day on her Facebook page titled: “Bonnie Bowen #belikebonnie.” Her aspiration with the paintings, she said, is to “spread happiness, comfort, and hope” during the pandemic.

The painting posts began March 24, 2020 at the suggestion of her daughter Betsy Bowen Hampton. What began as an idea to help her mother get through whatever was coming next with COVID restrictions, has become a massive sensation with fans such as Dr. Amy Acton and Governor DeWine.  There have been television appearances and newspaper stories. Bonnie has been contacted by a national talk show for a possible appearance. The most popular paintings have been of Dr. Amy Acton and her daughter demonstrating safe distance, and the O-H-I-O med staff painting.


Themes in the beginning of the series were tributes to the medical staff and frontline workers and along came happy-making beach bunnies enjoying a glass of wine, cavorting families, movies like the BLUES BROTHERS, and even one of Dr. Rustin Moore, dean of the Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.



The paintings have continued everyday and the comments from the posts reassure Bonnie that her work is potent medicine for the heart and soul.

One painting is of her dear friend Donna Clawson who has needed to isolate during the pandemic. She is looking out her window. Many people commented that the image reflected the feeling of their own isolation.

Comments on the Facebook page confirm that Bonnie’s art is a real shot in the arm, an assist to the vaccine.  Comments such as: “Bonnie, just what I need on a gloomy day!”  “Anything by the beach and water always perks me up.” “I do look forward to your delightful drawings. Thank you for your gifts of joy.”  “Started my day off with a big smile.”  “You are such an inspiration to me and so many more.”

One woman expressed her gratitude for the walking on the sun picture. She said her brother had died the day before and she was comforted thinking of him also walking on the sun.

When Bonnie posted the OSU cheerleaders in a pyramid formation, the comments ranged from, “Team Work” to “Were you a cheerleader, Bonnie?” 


Bonnie was not an OSU cheerleader but she knows how to raise spirits and rally the team. She took to heart the April 2020 statewide message that we should “end this together and be safe, stay home.” She puts these COVID guidelines into her art.

Bonnie is an attractive, vivacious, talented, funny, and intelligent woman, who happens to be 91. The “#belikeBonnie” on her Facebook page derives from daughter Betsy’s childhood friends, (who remain her friends to this day), who love Betsy’s mom and want to emulate her joie de vivre. Betsy helps Bonnie with social media and increasing requests for interviews and products. Betsy comes from a marketing background.

Betsy said, “Mom has a great attitude toward life. She feels there is a reason for whatever happens, and she takes everything in her stride, no matter what. She is happy 99.8% of the time, even in the worst of times. She clearly has sipped from the fountain of youth.”

Bonnie’s doctor agrees that Bonnie is a walking-talking age defier. He once asked her what the secret of her enduring youthful spirit is. Bonnie explained she enjoys wine with dinner. The doctor asked, “What kind of wine do you drink?” Bonnie answered, “Chardonnay.” The doctor told her he was going to buy some Chardonnay.

Charities like the Red Cross and Huckleberry house have benefitted from t-shirt and greeting card sales. More plans are in the works for prints, a calendar, and a book.

None of this might have happened had it not been for Mrs. Buck, Bonnie’s 3rd grade teacher whom Bonnie idolized. Mrs. Buck asked Bonnie to draw pilgrims on a mural in the school for Thanksgiving. Bonnie’s love and practice of art started there and continued at Ohio State where she majored in education with a minor in art.

Her ideas spring from her family life, her friends, the heroics of frontline workers, and from her Facebook fan comments. She was preparing her painting for another post before this interview and because rain was in the forecast and the song lyrics, “Raindrops keep falling on my head” emerged from her mind, she conjured a lovely lady in a flowery raincoat with matching umbrella prepared for come what may.


Into every life a little rain will fall. Nine years ago Bonnie was widowed. She and her husband, Grant, had known each other from the ages of 2 and 3 years old. They were married after college. A second great grandchild is on the way.

In September 2020, COVID struck Bonnie. It was a stretch of a few weeks before Bonnie got her energy back and Betsy knew her mom was better when she started painting again. “I like to bring sunshine into lives,” Bonnie said. Her fans brought sunshine to Bonnie with 100,000 Facebook well-wishes. The community of #belikeBonnie are all helping each other through, much like the people in Italy singing off their balconies in the evening, also captured by artist Bowen.

Bonnie is grateful for her education at Ohio State. She is in complete awe and admiration for the heroics of the essential workers.  She has a special message for all of the staff at the hospital: “Thank you for the help you give people and all the time you spend saving so many lives. It is truly remarkable.” She would also like everyone to know, there is light at the end of the tunnel.               

Better Days Ahead


Patricia Wynn Brown
Writer and Performer
Medicine and the Arts Board
Author of: ESSENTIAL STORIES: Medicine During COVID-19 and the Lives of Practitioners at OSU Wexner Medical Center

Essential Stories: Nancy Smith

Voices in Humanism

Nancy Smith, R.N.
Quality Improvement Coordinator, Ohio Reformatory for Women Physicians for Human Rights, OSU House Call Forum

“The Salt of the Earth”
“The salt of the earth” phrase has biblical origins that refer to the value of salt in those times as analogous to virtuous people. The message to the fishermen, shepherds, and laborers was that basic fundamental goodness is to be valued and that we are all of worth, not only the elevated classes.

The women receiving the COVID vaccine shots had tears in their eyes. They felt fortunate. “It gave me chills,” said Nurse Nancy Smith.

“They are so tired of being in quarantine having not seen their families in person for 10 months,” Nancy said. “I explained to them that the best and brightest in the world have given you this gift of the vaccine and that you are so brave to take it and help save millions of lives.”

The women Nancy is speaking of are the elderly inmates at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW) in Marysville, Ohio, the first there to receive the vaccine. Their hospital treatment center is at Ohio State.

Nancy is also part of the ORW medical team, along with Warden Teri Baldauf, Warden’s Assistant Clara Golding-Kent, advisors, five inmates, and five released women who meet on a regular basis with the OSU medical students of the Physicians for Human Rights sub committee to discuss the health needs of incarcerated women. The group is called HOUSE CALL.

Nancy became a nurse in 1994 and has held a position at ORW for 24 years. She has moved up through the ranks at ORW to now being in charge of a mind boggling number of health related things, COVID being one of them, such as policies, standards, and resources, with the title, Quality Improvement Coordinator. “The staff calls me Google,” she said with a giggle. Nancy ‘knows the ropes.’

“When asked to join the OSU HOUSE CALL forums I thought that I did not need one more meeting to attend,” Nancy recalled. “But the forums have helped me to step outside my role and meet and listen to the medical students. It has such great value and it injects a sense of purpose into my work. It managed to invigorate my career.”

She is personally and professionally aware of what a toll the pandemic has taken. “We have a lot of resources for self-care but I can see it in the nurse’s eyes working those 12-16 hour shifts and dealing with PPE all day. Prison is not easy on a good day and with the pandemic it is a struggle. I know what is happening when a nurse goes to the bathroom and comes out with her eyes all red from crying.

Nancy credits the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections Director Annette Chambers-Smith with her explicit instructions for immediate and expeditious inmate care when the pandemic struck, who ordered maximum clinical resources for the sickest people. Nancy said, “We restructured, eliminated what was not absolutely necessary, and made every appointment count.”

ORW, as of this writing, has had no fatalities in a prison population of about 2000. Across the other 26 Ohio prisons, there have been 132 deaths.

Nancy greatly appreciates OSU for their extraordinary expertise in saving a critically ill ORW COVID patient inmate.

“This inmate went to OSU, with multi organ failure and was in the ICU months. With the machines and skills of the technicians and nurses and physicians at OSU, she was saved. I was so afraid for her. We all worry over our patients when they are at the hospital from Warden Baldauf to the nurses on the floor. Covid took that worry to a much higher level” Nancy said. She also noted that before an ORW woman goes to the hospital a prison nurse must practice exemplary fine-tuned clinical skill and critical thinking skills.

“Being a nurse in a prison is almost like being a country doctor. You need to know about everything. Also, I’ve known some of these women for 20 years or so, and they trust me,” she said. Trust in sharing personal history by women inmates is a significant element, and can be a stumbling block, in their health care assessments and diagnoses. Without trust, many of the women develop feelings of being marginalized or have those already existing feelings magnified.

In addition, “Our nurses need to know all of the clinical fundamentals. We do EKG’s and draw blood. We cannot call another department for help. It is hands-on nursing at its finest. You have to be at the top of your game to be a nurse here,” Nancy said.

You also must possess compassion and perhaps, according to Nancy, the drive to serve in your DNA. Nancy grew up with both parents working in housekeeping at a hospital. Nancy was a “Candy Striper” and loved everything about the hospital environment, “with those white coated docs zooming by.”

For many of the inmates, prison has been their saving grace and as ORW Warden Baldauf often says, “We want the women to come out much healthier than when they came in.” As many women inmates report, “prison saved my life.”

Nancy recognizes the medicinal value of analyzing what the women have endured as part of their assessment. Reading some of their histories is sometimes so traumatic that Nancy needs to take a bit of time, drink a cup of tea, to recover from the horrors they endured and survived.

Some of the inmates have never had medical care. Nancy recalls one young woman in her mid 20s who will remain etched in her mind. “She came in with the complaint of vaginal bleeding. She appeared to be the picture of health in every way. This was a time when gang violence brought most of the women in, and now it is addiction. She was in tears, sobbing, and certain she had cancer and was dying. I asked about her menstrual history. Turns out she was the victim of human trafficking. Because of the stress, malnutrition, and the birth control pills she had been on from a young age, she had never had a period in her life. After six months in prison, her body had settled down and unbeknownst to her, her period began.”

When Nancy was considering taking a position at ORW, Ms. Mary Neal Miller, then the health care administrator, used that biblical reference regarding the “salt of the earth” to convince Nancy that we are called to add value to the world and to be a light to those who need it most. Nancy accepted the challenge.

“The first day on the job I was hooked,” said Nancy. “I am working at the best prison in the state. There is nothing like experiencing women’s health as we do here. God put me where I need to be. This is my place. This is my purpose.”

Patricia Wynn Brown
Writer and Performer
Medicine and the Arts Board
Author: ESSENTIAL STORIES: Medicine During COVID-19 and the Lives of Practitioners at The OSU Wexner Center

Essential Stories: Beth Steinberg

Voices in Humanism

Beth Steinberg, PhD(c), MS, RN, NEA-BC
Wexner Medical Center

“I knew I had to help”

Breath shortens. Joy diminishes. Worry ensues. Tension heightens. Sleep is interrupted. Appetite changes. The results are ill health.

While working as a bedside nurse, raising kids, going to graduate school, that feeling of being overwhelmed would strike and she took action to handle the emotions. She did breath work, yoga, and cleared her mind to calm herself.

Later as a nurse manager, director and then nurse administrator, she saw the stress levels of the nurses in her charge, and she said, “I knew I had to do something. I knew I had to help.” Noticing what the pressures were doing to the mental health of those in her charge is a bit like reading the stars to navigate; she knew what to look for and helped guide the nurses in ways to relax.

Beth Steinberg continues her own mindfulness and yoga practices as she plans, develops, implements, and researches programs that improve health through stress reduction at the Ohio State University Medical Center, while working with the Gabbe Health and Wellness Initiative, the Employee Resource Center, and Buckeye Paws, which is a therapy dog program for staff.

She employed the techniques she has practiced for years this very morning to prepare for a complex project. “I took a step back. Put down the work. Breathed. Cleared my mind. Then returned to the task,” she said.

“What the research shows is that methods such as yoga, breath work, and mindfulness training dramatically reduce stress, increase productivity and have positive effects on health conditions such as chronic pain, cancer, and cardiovascular disease,” Beth said. “We wanted to bring this right into the work place so that people could take just a few minutes to relax. We did it and have shown it has a real return on investment in terms of staff health and well-being.”

It was important for Beth that the programming be available at work as the energy spent during the shift left little reserve for efforts before or after. What may seem like a waste of precious work time to some has proven to actually save money by creating healthier professionals providing better care for patients.

With the Mindfulness in Motion program, inter-professional cohorts come together to learn the calming strategies. “We have doctors, and housekeepers, nurses, and respiratory therapists together. They relax and they learn from each other. The results are personal, but also enhance collaboration at the bedside,” Beth said.

The medical field deals with stress daily, but with the advent of COVID-19, the desperately ill patients and burnout symptoms surged.

Beth does not wait for disaster to render staff decimated. She keeps her antennae up to anticipate how she and the programming can circumvent trouble. She talks to people, asks questions, and finds solutions.

She observed how in the beginning of the pandemic, adrenaline and the work at hand kept everyone barreling through. She understood that level of exertion could not be sustained.

This is what she concluded. “After 10, 11 months, the exhaustion set in and people were working on their last fumes of energy. The toll mounted from working 16-hour shifts, dealing with PPE, people refusing to wear masks or believing COVID was not real, becoming not only a nurse but a caregiver, chaplain, and holding an iPad for final goodbyes.”

The need for programming was fast becoming a staff medical emergency and was met with a number of resources, one being the website WELLNESS TAB where two, five, and ten minute guided exercises can be employed.

For instance, the two-minute program includes receiving instructions for progressive relaxation of body parts. Beth said, “Sometimes we don’t even realize the extreme tension in our necks or backs. Also, we have lost the physical comfort of being able to gather or hug. On top of that toll, our personal lives may have been complicated with loss of loved ones and added responsibilities. In just a few minutes we can reset and build
our stamina.”

Brienne, Beth’s yellow lab, is a member of the Buckeye Paws staff therapy dog team. The well-trained dogs wear a grey harness with an OSU patch and they sport their ID credentials. The therapy dogs have been given medical clearance to provide important good health interventions, hugs and tail wags.

Hunter Jeffries, RN, BSN, CCRN, a nurse manager in the Medical Intensive Care Unit, uses a technique that Beth finds extremely therapeutic. She said, “Hunter really knows how to connect with people, to celebrate and recognize their specific accomplishments.”

Hunter recently sent an email to staff about a not particularly funny procedure: how to inflate a rectal tube properly. Beth described the email as both informative and also light-hearted and clever. She said she could not help but smile as she read it. She also described the virtual retirement plans Hunter is meticulously forming for a colleague and his admirable dedication while also having a young family at home. She sees
Hunter as a living example of resilience fostered by his care and concern for others.

Because Beth keeps an eye on the horizon, she knows that when the rush and work load of the pandemic eases there will be a let down and new measures must be taken.

“What we will see,” she said, “is people feeling a sense of loss of purpose. We need to consider ways for people to find joy in their work again. We have the data that our website and mindfulness activity tabs are reaching thousands. One of our goals coming very soon is using storytelling to offer meaning and understanding to our experiences.”

Beth’s passion is to help staff weather life and work’s often stormy seas. In nautical terms, she is a true navigator who manages the “point of sail” (the craft’s direction of travel in relation to true wind direction) to propel people forward in a healthy manner. She is in alignment with the words of Thomas Monson, a religious leader, who said, “We cannot control the wind, but we can adjust our sails.”

Patricia Wynn Brown
Writer and Performer
Medicine and the Arts Board
Author: ESSENTIAL STORIES: Medicine During COVID-19 and the Lives of Practitioners at the OSU Wexner Medical Center

Essential Stories: Jessica Muñoz

Voices in Humanism

*Essential Stories: The practice of medicine during the pandemic*
Jessica Muñoz, 4th year medical student, The Ohio State University

This is some advice from fourth year medical student at The Ohio State University, Jessica Muñoz. When times are tough hold onto your dreams tightly. Find a support system via friends or family. Ask for help when you need it. Schedule workouts right onto your calendar and go to the place that gives your courage and strength.

That place for Jessica is home, West Chicago. She went there when she left medical school for a year preceded by too many family members dying. Her school challenges became overwhelming. She was sleep deprived, and feeling so inadequate, and showing the classic signs of “imposter syndrome.”

The pressures of medical school are well known but many times not expressed. In addition to the usual pains students suffer, Jessica had her whole family to consider. She was the first one in her immediate family to finish school. Her mother left school after third grade, her dad after
first. She will be the first doctor in her extended family. She is also writing a book about her life and vocation.

“I started reading Dr. Michele Harper’s book, THE BEAUTY IN BREAKING,” Jessica said, “and I was getting discouraged with my own writing. So I contacted her on her Instagram account.”

THE BEAUTY IN THE BREAKING is a memoir by an E.R. doctor and Jessica’s focus in her studies is Emergency Room work. Surprisingly, Dr. Harper responded and is now a mentor to Jessica.

“I fell in love with it,” Jessica said of Emergency Medicine. “You never know who will walk through the door and with what condition. I am very interested in the social side of medicine and want to know the person’s social history and understand their barriers to healthcare, I ask them important questions that sometimes go unasked due to bias or mistrust. The emergency department sets the tone for the rest of my patient’s care and their health outcomes. For many, this may be their first time seeing a doctor. We need to take advantage of this opportunity to get them the best care. In the ED we see the sickest of the sick, and often the most vulnerable. I see my job as finding ways to heal while keeping the patient and their family comfortable and safe.”

Jessica’s interest in people who are often overlooked connected her with third year medical student at OSU, Sheila Okere, who was starting a chapter of Physicians for Human Rights, and the sub group involving a relatively new field, Correctional Medicine, that is, treating incarcerated patients.

Calls and emails connected Sheila, Jessica and the entire group of 16 medical students to an advisor, Dr. Linda Stone, a former prison clinician, Annette Dominguez, and this writer who does programs at the prison.

The invitation then went to the warden at the Ohio Reformatory for Women, their medical staff, five female inmates, and five released women to join a zoom forum meeting periodically through the year. As this is a pandemic year and all classes and programming ceased at the prison, it was a wildly welcome invitation supported by an extraordinarily forward thinking warden, Teri Baldauf.

The HOUSE CALL first forum, as it is called, proved to be a big success. Then the organizers discussed the book THE BEAUTY IN BREAKING and how it would be a terrific forum book club style discussion. Thirty-five books were purchased for each of the forum participants with money raised on a social platform. Jessica was in communication with the New York Times best selling author, Dr. Harper, invited her, and the author joined the zoom HOUSE CALL forum. Dr. Harper noted on her Instagram page that the discussion was one of the highlights of her year.

Covid has proven to bring out the innovation in all of us out of necessity, but it also brings disappointment. Jessica lamented some of the drawbacks. “I had to give up a cancelled L.A. rotation. It is also wearing to do the residency interviews on zoom. One was six and a half hours long! Also, we may not have graduation in person in May. I have waited so long and worked so hard for that day.”

A plus in the interviews has been Jessica’s involvement with the prison HOUSE CALL group. “Everyone wants to know about this work because it is probably the only forum series of its kind anywhere.”

The gifts the forum have provided Jessica and all of the participants help salve the wounds of a pandemic year. There is a fruitful and enlightening exchange among all of the participants. Jessica’s future E.R. career is being shaped by this as well as her studies and rotations.

She said, “Trust is a big issue with people who are underserved and I see that in my own family. I hope in the forums and in my E.R. work that the people I meet see that I value them for who they are and I do not judge them for any of their past deeds. I want to do what I can to empower them and help our medical field reduce biases and pre-conceived perceptions.”

Jessica’s creed is this: “I always want to remember why I do what I love.”


Patricia Wynn Brown, MA
Writer and Performer
Medicine and the Arts Board
Author, Essential Stories: Medicine During COVID-19 and the Lives of Practitioners at the OSU Wexner Medical Center

Essential Stories: Antoinette J. Pusateri

Voices in Humanism

Antoinette J. Pusateri, MD
PGY-3 Department of Internal Medicine
President, Gold Humanism Honor Society Resident Chapter
OSU College of Medicine


“I want to tell and elevate our stories. Explain what our role is. Where we fit into this pandemic.”—Antoinette Pusateri, M.D., 3rd Year Internal Medicine Resident, The Ohio State University.

That is what Antoinette Pusateri said to the interviewer when asked about her #thisisourshot series on The Ohio State Internal Medicine Instagram account offering interviews, photos, and vignettes featuring the residents and their daily lives at the Ohio State University Hospitals.

The hashtag title is borrowed from the HAMILTON song, “My Shot.” The musical, according to Lin-Manuel Miranda, is about the fact that we only have one shot at life and everyone has something very important they can contribute and that path contains obstacles and setbacks.

I am not throwin’ away my shot
Hey yo, I’m just like my country
I’m young, scrappy and hungry
And I’m not throwin’ away my shot.” (Hamilton, “My Shot”, lyrics continue…)

Antoinette completed four episodes for the Instagram page that she was very excited about. “The residents just received their COVID vaccines and the interviews are raw and real. Two of them are a couple who are on the frontlines, one OBGYN and the other one Internal Medicine. They talk about how they help each other through,” Antoinette said. Another advantage of the popular Instagram site is to clear up misunderstandings about what residents actually do.

The interest in storytelling, narrative medicine, and broadcast journalism started with her parents, both high school teachers/coaches. “They emphasized the importance of the arts and I dabbled in everything. It was all about storytelling. When I was in high school I took an art history course in which our teacher Mrs. Rothwell offered insights into storytelling from unique perspectives,” explained Antoinette.

“Medicine IS a combination of science and the arts,” Antoinette believes, “and we are so lucky at OSU that art, professionalism, and humanism are all pillars of our medical curriculum.”

Having this art outlet via Instagram has been a boon to Antoinette’s own resilience. She said, “In February 2020, I was finishing the cardiac intensive care night team rotation working 80 hours a week. It was the hardest rotation, I thought, at the time. But then a number of us were headed out to breakfast and we glanced at the TV on our way out. That’s when we first heard about the Coronavirus. My biggest challenge was actually yet to come.”

Every burden, every disadvantage
I have learned to manage. I don’t have a gun to brandish
I walk these streets famished
The plan is to fan this spark into a flame

Antoinette has been on the frontlines of COVID19 pandemic and saw how the most vulnerable among us became its first victims. The murder of George Floyd ignited Antoinette’s outrage. She co-founded the “IDEA (Inclusion Diversity Equity and Advocacy) Council”, an organization of OSU residents and fellows dedicated to addressing racial and gender disparities in medicine for patients and colleagues alike, so that people from all backgrounds feel included, respected, and celebrated.

Don’t be shocked when your history book mentions me
I will lay down my life if it sets us free
Eventually, you’ll see my ascendancy.

She feels the fatigue from her work with COVID patients but her concern is for others too. Her spiritual life anchors her and she makes kindness gestures such as her work with the Gold Humanism Honor Society during the holidays.

“My moral compass, developed through my faith and education, has always led me in a direction of pursuing works that inspire and create social equity and justice,” Antoinette said. “In every phase of my life, as I learn more about history, injustices, and the world around me, my first priority is to work with others to be the change we seek. While we cannot change the world, we can change one person’s world.

“Being on the frontlines of the COVID19 pandemic plus witnessing the racial injustices and imbalances of the underserved, my residency includes social justice initiatives.”

I gotta holler just to be heard
With every word, I drop knowledge

“Here in the COVID and national crisis, it’s like we are all in a big ocean storm with high waves,” she said, “and I cannot see the others and whether they are sinking or swimming but I keep swimming and reaching out to them. I try to help by giving them voice to their self-sacrifice and work ethic. We have to help each other through this storm, there is sunshine on the other side!”

Patricia Wynn Brown
Writer and Performer
Medicine and the Arts Board
Author: ESSENTIAL STORIES: Medicine During COVID-19 and the Lives of Practitioners at The OSU Wexner
Medical Center

Essential Stories: Emily Evans

Voices in Humanism

Emily Evans, BSN, RN

This is Fine

     Emily Evans returned to work last Monday and when she did, the welcome she received moved her to tears. The tears came again in this telling.
     “I was gone 40 days and 40 nights. It was practically biblical. First, we were in quarantine exposed to Covid by a family member, then my 11-year-old daughter contracted Covid, then I did. When I returned to work Monday and before she even had her coat off, put her stuff down, or grabbed a cup of coffee, my co-worker, Sarah Szczepanik, arrived and said, ‘Where’s Emily?’ She found me and hugged me tight.”
     Emily is an Oncology Nurse for The Ohio State University Hospitals. When she speaks of the support she has received she pauses, breathes, then wipes her eyes.
     The Bing Crosby character, Father O’Malley, in the old movie, “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” said to Ingrid Berman as the nun, “If you need anything, dial ‘O for O’Malley’.” Emily has her own understanding “O’Malley,” her colleague Dr. David O’Malley, who has been a pillar of support for her. “I couldn’t have weathered this and all without him,” she explained.
     Dedication to her patients is paramount for this 34-year-old nurse and when she speaks of them, some whose time on earth grows short, her emotions get the most of her. One of the patients going through chemo has a child now with Covid. Another patient’s husband died alone from Covid. Emily discovered that a patient beginning a trial treatment this coming week lives in the house next door to Emily’s beloved deceased grandmother’s old house. She hopes Grandma Dorothy will help that patient from above, as she has helped Emily through the years.
     “In the beginning of the epidemic I put this meme [below] up in our office. See? flames all around and we are just carrying on as if things were fine. This detached, yet still deeply caring attitude, helps us function and not be overwhelmed.”

     “In the early Covid days,” Emily continued, “for three months, as a precaution, my kids had to be away with my parents and other relatives. I would go to work, come home and break into hives each night alone. It was scary. It just gets really hard. I am not on the Covid frontlines but I am tired, so so tired.”
     Along with work, and as a single mom, Emily also has her three children schooling virtually at home. “Some days I do work from home and one day,” Emily recalled, “I was on a video call as the mailman knocked, Camryn was learning juggling with plastic bags, the dog was barking, for music class the twins were singing, When the Saints Go Marching In, so I gave up trying to display a totally professional office screen appearance. We are at war with this Covid and life is complicated. We just need to carry on the best we can and appreciate and protect each other. My patients understand.”
     When we emerge from the pandemic, Emily and her colleagues, in their offices at Mill Run, have an idea for their victory celebration. “We are going to remove that meme posted in March, which is now slipping down the wall and curling up at the edges, and get rid of it,” she said. “Maybe we will bring in a marching band.”

Pat Wynn Brown
Writer and Performer
Medicine and the Arts Board
Author: ESSENTIAL STORIES: Medicine During COVID-19 and the Lives of Practitioners at The OSU Wexner Medical Center